Author Topic: Seriously, can we talk stock images and romance covers?  (Read 1258 times)  

Offline Danica Raimz

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Seriously, can we talk stock images and romance covers?
« on: July 17, 2017, 09:05:40 AM »
Okay, Miss Goodie Goodie here ... writing erotic romance. So I wrote my first novel in the romance genre under a new pen name. It's a stand-alone, rather steamy new adult. It's not porn, not BDSM ... but rather detailed over a number of intimate moments. I love the story ... I'm proud of the stuff between the covers and have gotten many compliments between Amazon, Goodreads, and real world sources. I haven't done much marketing on it yet because my goal is to release two individual story novellas that follow up on the characters from the novel and then go full 'ehem ... steam ahead with the marketing. The first novella is complete and I'm working on the cover. And I'm about to tear my hair out, one strand at a time. Here are my issues ... if anyone has any guidance, I really would appreciate it. And don't feel bad about laughing at me, because I'm laughing, too ... no matter how bitterly.



1) The cover on the novel, Jigsaw Hearts, I did myself. I bought the image of the couple from Period Images after searching high and low for subjects who looked remotely like the characters. I wanted to be sure all was good about using the image on an erotic romance, so I wrote the company and it was all good ... and really should be since all their stock is romance for the very purpose of book covers. But I wanted to be sure.  Price wasn't bad (about $30 if I recall), but I was pretty limited in what they had since so much of it is for historical and fantasy work. I put the couple on a wooded scene which works with the story. Comments on the cover have been mixed. I have someone gushing over the look of the characters and someone saying they hate the cover with a passion but gave the book 5 stars. Their reason? The characters don't look anything like they should. I have been considering adjusting the cover to make them headless and changing the title fonts, since I no longer like them, but simply enlarging the couple on that background doesn't work perspective-wise. So now I find myself wondering if I can do anything with the cover still using that couple. So my first question is, I thought it wasn't necessary to make characters look exactly like their depiction in the book? In the meantime, between looking for new stock for that and for the novella, I have fallen down the rabbit hole, spending HOURS and HOURS looking at stock image sites. I have been through list after list of free and royalty free image sites. And I come up with two issues:

a) There are quite a few images I could use (the guy shirtless embrace type, people embracing on bed, you know ... the ones you see time and again. I figure, that's what seems to be selling!) but they are in the big houses like shutterstock, fotolio, istock, canstock and the like. However, in my research on forums and blog posts, I keep finding warnings about using them on romance ... not to mention the site licensing warns against it, too. Other sites that allow erotic romance use tend to use people wearing outfits that are not the characters at all and many tend to look unnaturally posed.

b) Now I can see that ... clearly ... other romance writers are using the big houses. Are they not scared over getting charged or sued? I'm dying to use fotolio, but they are owned by Getty, which has horror stories surrounding their bots picking up on image use. Canstock seemed harmless enough, but then I saw a warning somewhere about them. Then I wonder about romance versus porn ... that my stuff is probably okay since its not porn, but I have come across licensing on some sites that says no romance book covers. And even if it says erotic ... what is their definition? I mean, I doubt they're going to buy and read through the book!

Okay, so what do I decide to do yesterday? I say to myself ... freaking EL James had a tie on the cover of 50 Shades! A tie! Why am I worrying about this. And then I decided I would hold my own photo shoot with inanimate objects. I hit 7 stores to find the right color lacey panties referred to in the novella. Then I hit JoAnne's to find silky fabric in a similar shade, along with tulle .... and then ... what's that? Teal pearls on sale in the beading section on my way out? I took those, too. I get home, dewrinkle white bedsheets ... set up work lamps to bounce light off the ceiling, set up the yard of material to look like the bottom of a cocktail dress with a hint of tulle hanging out (amazingly, this actually worked). I place the panties casually over the "dress' (this took a while), toss the beads (on invisible thread) over the whole shabang as if they broke ... oh, and a blue-stoned ring ... cause she pretty much throws it at him at one point ... then took a shot. What? Do I have photography skills, you ask? Well, I did work in video a while. Apparently, that didn't help, though. So it looked awful. Like someone's messy bed.  Then I zoomed in on the teal silk, tulle, beads, ring, panties, so the silk was the background and actually came out with some decent compositions. About one hundred shots and manipulations of material later, I downloaded and looked at the images to find I don't know if they are any good at all for the cover of a book. I'm not sure if it looks pleasantly different, seductive, or like a bridesmaid party gone horribly wrong. This is just one sample

 

So I have just spent four more hours searching for answers and it has become a huge waste of my time. Occasionally, I come across a pre-made cover that might work for either book, but I'm worried about the honesty of where the image comes from. Plus, then you tack on the cost for print with the ebook and yikes.  I would love to pay to have a photo shoot setup, but I can't afford that right now and even though I'm about to say, the hell with it, why not, my husband (who has been patient and supportive for years with my writing) will probably either kill or divorce me if I do. LOL.

I guess what I'm looking for is if anyone can tell me if I'm over worrying about using the major stock houses with their vague licensing language. Or if anyone has a solution or resource I haven't though of or found. There are so many gorgeous romance covers out there ... they have to be coming from somewhere. I've read that even major publishers sometimes use stock rather than paying for model sessions. In another genre, I wound up paying a cover artist, but I used silhouettes. But I don't want to use that look here.

Thanks for reading this far!
Danica


« Last Edit: July 17, 2017, 09:10:00 AM by Danica Raimz »

Offline anniejocoby

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Re: Seriously, can we talk stock images and romance covers?
« Reply #1 on: July 17, 2017, 09:17:03 AM »
I actually think your photo shoot thing is very pretty and it looks appropriate for erotic romance. The only problem with it is that it's so blue, it would be difficult to make out what everything is in a thumbnail. I think.

As for the photo stuff from big houses...I never heard anything about not using them for romance. In fact, I use Shutterstock, and I'm CONSTANTLY coming across the same couples I got from Shutterstock on other romance books. Exact same pictures, too. I wouldn't worry about it, because if we can't use pictures from Shutterstock and places like that on romance, then everybody in the romance industry are going get their pants sued off of us, because we're all using the same images. I have a cover designer who has an account with Fotolio, and I would also send her images from Shutterstock, and she never said anything about not being able to use these images, either. She's a professional, and I think she would know if these images were restricted. So, I wouldn't worry about it. I'm surprised that you've received warnings against using these sites for romance.

That said, I like your panties and pearls concept. I think I like it better than the couple in the woods, especially if your book is erotic romance. The couple in the woods looks like sweet romance, or, at the very least, tame romance. And, I hate to say it, but I REALLY don't like the font you used. I know you didn't ask about that, and I'm sorry if I'm out of line in saying it, but it just doesn't look like romance to me.

Good luck!

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Offline C. Gold

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Re: Seriously, can we talk stock images and romance covers?
« Reply #2 on: July 17, 2017, 09:25:15 AM »
For what it's worth, I like your photo arrangement. It definitely needs a splash of color but that could be added with the text.

I also love the couple you have in your original book cover but it really doesn't work with the forest and the font doesn't say steamy to me at all. It is also too curly to read quickly. The coloration feels wrong too.

One thing you could think about doing with your couple is to take out pieces of the puzzle which conveniently can hide the face or alter whatever people find wrong with why they don't match. Maybe a few raised pieces sitting on top of others in that unfinished puzzle look? Or scatter them about the cover?

Offline EmmaGreenfield

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Re: Seriously, can we talk stock images and romance covers?
« Reply #3 on: July 17, 2017, 09:37:55 AM »
Covers are hard. Here are the bullet points I use when making mine:

Mist around the edges: make it a color that will melt into the scene. It shouldn't be jarring.
Desaturate: a lot of the popular romance covers have desaturated pictures. Not extreme, but just enough.
Scribbled title: You'll notice the popular covers have a sort of casual cursive font, sometimes mixed with a block font.
Author font: Go to 1001font.com and find a font that had no little flairs on the letters and is block. It seems 'in' to have your author all in caps.
Right dimensions: Some variation of 1563x2500.

I like your blue lacy picture. You could definitely make something out of that.

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Offline JaydenHunter

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Re: Seriously, can we talk stock images and romance covers?
« Reply #4 on: July 17, 2017, 09:50:29 AM »
I am no expert.  In fact, I'm not even a novice.
Nothing I have to say means anything in this area, except this:

I hired a cover artist who simply creates his own people.
If you look at the dude on the sci-fi and the couple on the romance cover, they are artist created, so I have no worries about licensing, or model rights, or anything.  The images are unique and mine, so at least, there's piece of mind.

Now, the thriller covers were done by a different guy...but I think the same applies (that the models were created).
The first guy I mentioned is Mike at 10 dollar covers and the thrillers were done by Carl with extended imagery (Joe Konrath uses him).

As a side bar:  Mike's cover's cost me $60 and Carl charged $600 and $450....

So, that said, considering I've made zero dollars and zero cents on the thrillers, but several thousand on the sci-fi, one of the keys in this game is to stay on a shoe-string budget.  When I was new I got over enthusiast and thought I needed a $600 cover for my debut novel...

Stupid comes in all forms...ha ha...

Not that Carl's work is not worth every penny, but as a newbie I was ignorant paying this kind of money.

Cheers and good luck.

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Offline icanhaskindle

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Re: Seriously, can we talk stock images and romance covers?
« Reply #5 on: July 17, 2017, 09:58:27 AM »
As someone not in your target audience (older male who does not read romance novels) I tend to like what you did with your own photo a lot more than the original cover. And as a hobbyist photographer and photoshopper, the original cover could work with the right tweaks. Perhaps more vivid colors, the puzzle piece removal suggested above, etc.

As for the warning not to use stock images for romance covers, that's got to be someone who is ultra cautious about the terms of service. Most stock agencies terms of service, as well as some model release forms used by photographers, do not allow the model to be depicted in a pornographic or defamatory manner. Perhaps some romance covers go a little too far in that direction, or some ultra conservative model might not like their image associated with the content of a more explicit story, hence the advice to avoid stock. Covers like what you have should certainly not be an issue. A few years ago I read a blog post by a stock model who started seeing himself in advertising for a product he did not like (I don't recall the details, perhaps erectile disfunction or incontinence), and his friends started mocking him about it. His model release allowed such use so all he could do was wait for the advertising campaign to expire. His advice in the blog was that if you don't want to be depicted that way, don't be a stock model.

Offline DougLawless

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Re: Seriously, can we talk stock images and romance covers?
« Reply #6 on: July 17, 2017, 10:20:25 AM »
Just wanted to chime in to say I really like your blue photo.
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Offline Danica Raimz

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Re: Seriously, can we talk stock images and romance covers?
« Reply #7 on: July 17, 2017, 11:03:37 AM »
I have to say, I love you people...each and every one of you! You've all been so helpful. Feeling a lot more confident about playing around with the blue image for the novella. And feeling better about perhaps not being so literal and black and white about using the stock images. I really have to stop being so paranoid. But I guess its all learning curve, right?  It sure took me long enough to type certain words and phrases typical to the genre in the beginning ... and now I can fling them around without a second thought! LOL.

And, I hate to say it, but I REALLY don't like the font you used. I know you didn't ask about that, and I'm sorry if I'm out of line in saying it, but it just doesn't look like romance to me.

Yes, one of the reasons I want to tweak the novel cover is I hate the font I used. Not sure why I went that way in the first place.

And I love the puzzle piece removal idea. Not sure I have that skill level, but will definitely see if I can up my game to figure it out. Maybe a simpler background would help.



Offline Melody Simmons

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Re: Seriously, can we talk stock images and romance covers?
« Reply #8 on: July 17, 2017, 12:08:07 PM »
I design quite an amount of romance covers and here's what I can say to help:

Stock images are far fewer that you would think...after publishing a few books you will fully realize how few there actually are (which is why I am always campaigning amongst photographers for more stock images suitable for book covers.)  So the easiest practice is to get the cover done BEFORE you write the book. I know quite a few romance authors who do that, because they know how hard it is to get good images, and then they write the book descriptions to fit the image rather than the other way round...saves a lot of headache, especially in romance.  In fantasy one can still paint things in, but in romance the images need to look a lot more realistic.

Your main category you are going for is New Adult & College Romance according to what I can see on your Amazon page.  Check the bestsellers and also the new releases in that genre.  What is most popular are the male torso covers - with or without heads.  Here and there you will also find a couple image.  There is also a certain kind of style and font type involved:

https://www.amazon.com/gp/bestsellers/digital-text/6487838011/ref=pd_zg_hrsr_kstore_1_4_last

If you are categorising your book in there it should fit with those.  I have some premade covers available that fit that style if you wanted to have a look:

https://ebookindiecovers.com/premade-ebook-covers-erotic-romance/

Unless you are planning to change your categories, in which case you would need a different approach according to the style that is popular.  But I don't see any books in the New Adult Romance bestsellers with pearls or objects.

Lastly - get advice from other Romance authors who write in the same genre, not from authors who know nothing about it and write in Fantasy or Thriller or SciFi genres.

On your stock image license question - even the big trad publishing houses use stock models from stock sites for romance books (though they tend to do more custom shoots of course).  The only time you may run into issues is if your book is actually classified under Erotica.  In that case it is advisable to cut heads off.
« Last Edit: July 17, 2017, 01:09:54 PM by Melody Simmons »

Offline evdarcy

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Re: Seriously, can we talk stock images and romance covers?
« Reply #9 on: July 17, 2017, 12:41:42 PM »
From what you're describing as your book and the genre, I don't think you're categorising correctly.  It sounds more like romance -- new age -- rather that erotic romance.  Erotic romance isn't just hot and steamy love stories. (I had to learn this too!).  So i think you're over stressing on the whole 'stock image' no no thing that you're going on about. 

Personally, on your first image, while not pro designer level, I think that typography is your main worry.  Typography can make a book look thrown together or 'oh wow!'.

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Offline Danica Raimz

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Re: Seriously, can we talk stock images and romance covers?
« Reply #10 on: July 17, 2017, 01:04:24 PM »
Hmmm... Melody and EVdarcy ... I did know there were a lot of that shirtless look and I suppose that is where the books I'm writing fall. I just didn't realize it was practically all of them! Maybe I need to self correct and follow along with that look. I just hate when covers all look the same. As a reader, I tend to gravitate toward stuff that looks different ... but clearly I'm the minority in that. And, of course, I just happened upon a couple that looks very much like the couple ... but they're fully clothed! LOL. And I never thought I would say this before, but ... I am sooo tired of looking at half naked men! Regardless, I think I do need to lean with what is more popular. Going to be a long night.

Offline CarolynVMurray

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Re: Seriously, can we talk stock images and romance covers?
« Reply #11 on: July 18, 2017, 08:49:04 AM »
Even if you don't use that new cover for this particular series, save it for later. It's very suggestive and unique - but in a way that I think will sell with the right series. Much more appealing than a tie.
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Offline elizabethbarone

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Re: Seriously, can we talk stock images and romance covers?
« Reply #12 on: July 18, 2017, 09:10:55 AM »
I like your photo and its composition, but I agree that it's too monochromatic and won't be very striking as a thumbnail. Honestly, I don't find your current cover striking. I agree that the typography doesn't work. The puzzle pieces can't be seen unless it's viewed at a larger size, though I do think removing one would be interesting to play with. Try taking a scroll through your genre on Amazon and looking at the bestselling books in that category. Which features do their covers have in common? Can you apply those elements to yours?

Everyone else has covered your licensing worries, so I'm just going to add that most of the main stock photo sites allow commercial licensing for up to so many reproductions (say 100,000 T-shirts or paperback copies). Then you would need to purchase a bigger license. Also, for what it's worth, the other sites like CanStockPhoto and Shutterstock charge far less than $30 an image. Usually I find that CanStockPhoto has the images I want or the same models in a slightly different pose for cheaper than, say, iStockphoto. Adobe Images is pretty good, too.

Reputable cover designers use legitimate stock photos in both their custom and pre-made covers, so I don't think you need to worry about that. I feel ya on having a hard time finding models who look like your characters. You may be able to find a photo that's close enough and a designer who, through manipulation, can bring it in home. Or you can go with a more abstract design, like what you've been playing with. Maybe you can try swapping in a contrasting or complementary color for the dress, and white pearls (which would pop more against the other elements).

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Offline GettingCozy

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Re: Seriously, can we talk stock images and romance covers?
« Reply #13 on: July 18, 2017, 05:37:34 PM »
Oh, I feel your pain.  I wrote erotica, then romance, and stock images were the bane of my life.  Hot women aplenty! And all the men look like extras from an Eastern European mob movie.  And yeah, I was SO sick of looking at half naked people and of smoothing out nipples or painting underpants to cover more of the shapely rear end...  But in the end, the "cover first" solution worked best for me.

Offline Danica Raimz

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Re: Seriously, can we talk stock images and romance covers?
« Reply #14 on: July 19, 2017, 05:34:49 PM »
Even if you don't use that new cover for this particular series, save it for later. It's very suggestive and unique - but in a way that I think will sell with the right series. Much more appealing than a tie.

Yeah, I think, if nothing else, I'll use it on my website. Thank you!  ;D

Offline Danica Raimz

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Re: Seriously, can we talk stock images and romance covers?
« Reply #15 on: July 19, 2017, 05:49:07 PM »
Also, for what it's worth, the other sites like CanStockPhoto and Shutterstock charge far less than $30 an image. Usually I find that CanStockPhoto has the images I want or the same models in a slightly different pose for cheaper than, say, iStockphoto. Adobe Images is pretty good, too.

Thanks again, everyone! I wound up using some Shutterstock for the new book and to redo the first. They're a lot racier and fit much better with the New Adult College Romance niche. I'll have to post them when done...but I'm still tweaking. Actually, very excited about them!

Oh, I feel your pain.  I wrote erotica, then romance, and stock images were the bane of my life.  Hot women aplenty! And all the men look like extras from an Eastern European mob movie.  And yeah, I was SO sick of looking at half naked people and of smoothing out nipples or painting underpants to cover more of the shapely rear end...  But in the end, the "cover first" solution worked best for me.

LOL! Yes! I just spent hours tweaking a pair of lace panties today. And the other day, while finally purchasing stock of half naked people at a ridiculous hour, I heard hubby snoring from the bedroom. Yep .... there's a reason fiction is called fiction! Nobody wants to read reality!  :D


Offline she-la-ti-da

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Re: Seriously, can we talk stock images and romance covers?
« Reply #16 on: July 20, 2017, 04:32:32 AM »
Always remember that the cover is your first sales tool. It should telegraph genre, not be too different from what's out there in the same genre, and be of comparable quality.
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